Hughes: Win sends message to rivals

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Will Hughes believes England Under-21s sent a message to the rest of the continent as they secured their place at next summer’s European Championship with a win in Croatia.

Derby midfielder Hughes scored England’s second as the Young Lions claimed a 2-1 win in Vinkovci to advance 4-2 on aggregate after Friday’s first-leg victory at Molineux.

England’s coaching set-up and infrastructure has come under much scrutiny in recent years, with Football Association chairman Greg Dyke launching a commission to try and find a solution for a lack of success at the top level.

But Hughes believes the display on Tuesday night shows that English players are able to win while playing attractive football and that a marker has been laid for the tournament in the Czech Republic.

“We showed our quality and how we can play,” Hughes told

“A lot of people have a perception that England can’t play football but I think we’ve come here and shown that we can, especially in the second half.”

Liam Moore grabbed a vital away goal inside the first 10 minutes and, although Marko Livaja equalised before the break, Hughes fired England back ahead as they eased to a comfortable victory.

“Luckily we got the first goal, which controlled it a bit for us,” Hughes added. “B ut unfortunately they hit back and we knew it was going to be a nervy second half.

“But once we got that second goal, they had to score three and we controlled it from then on.”

Moore took advantage of some slack marking at a corner to volley England into a ninth-minute lead but the centre-half was outmuscled by Livaja seven minutes before the break as the Rubin Kazan forward finished low past Jack Butland.

England enjoyed the better of the second half as Hughes produced a low finish to make it 2-1 in the 73rd minute and, while the 19-year-old was delighted to get his second goal for the Under-21s, he heaped praise on the spirit and resilience of his team-mates.

“It feels brilliant (to have scored), but it was a great team effort,” he said.

“We really dug in and knew it would be hard coming out here when there was only one goal in it.

“We got told at half-time that we needed to press higher up and keep hold – and it showed quite a lot of balls from the team to do that when it was so close.

“But we showed our quality in the end.”

Manager Gareth Southgate echoed Hughes’ words and was delighted with the performance as well as the result.

“I’m most pleased with the manner in which we played,” he said.

“We’ve been playing that way since the start, but we were really conscious that if we wanted to get our message across, we had to do it tonight, under pressure.

“It was clear from the beginning that if we got the ball into midfield our movement, touch and awareness was going to cause a problem.

“We were in control of the game and we didn’t want to come here and sit back.

“We enforced that message because we could have sat off and defended but that’s not the way we are set up as a team.

“We played to our strengths and that’s how we’ve built the team – on possession.

“I want to show that England teams can play in a different way and, for everything that we’re trying to do throughout the age groups, it was important that we qualified.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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